Turkey: Armenian “Martin Luther King Jr.” Commemorated


The second anniversary of a murdered journalist once again had the power to move mountains in strained relations between Armenia and Turkey, two states separated by the biblical mount Ararat and an unholy history. When ethnic Armenian Hrant Dink was assassinated in front of the Istanbul office of the Agos Armenian weekly newspaper he edited on 19 January 2007, thousands of Turkish citizens attended his funeral chanting, “We are all Hrant Dink. We are all Armenians.”

Yesterday's commemoration might not have been on such a large scale, but newspaper articles, editorials, and reaction from bloggers show that the murder of a prominent member of Turkey’s dwindling Christian Armenian minority by a Turkish ultra-nationalist continues to shock the world. Moreover, hopes remain alive that Dink's legacy as a symbol of peace and reconciliation between the two nations. The Pasha and the Gypsy comments.

Today is not only Martin Luther King Day, and the day before Barack Obama's inauguration. It is also the second anniversary of another murder.

Rasti, a Kurdish blog, also remembers the day that Dink was killed.

I remember where I was and what I was doing two years ago today. I remember how I felt. I remember opening a page of news and seeing the photo of Hrant Dink covered with paper, yellow crime scene tape holding back onlookers, and the police standing nearby. I remember how I felt. I was shocked, horrified, dismayed, disgusted. I wanted what I was seeing not to be true. But I knew it was true…

With commemorations held around the world, Turkey hosted the majority. Among them, as listed on Blog Kurdistan, one stood out.

18 Ocak’ta saat 15.00’te Galatasaray Meydanı’nda ‘O gün Biz de vurulduk’ temalı bir flashmob etkinliği yapılacak.

There will be a flash mob demonstration with the theme “On that day we were also shot” at 3 p.m. on January 18 in [Istanbul’s] Galatasaray square. (translated by Amy Grupp).

Photos from the flash mob demonstration are already available on a Turkish site. Other Turkish blogs have marked the occasion, and KISA KES UZUN OLSUN… posts photographs from the gathering at the location of the journalist's murder. Online commemorations were also held, with over 1,800 members of my Facebook group changing their profile picture to display of a photograph of Hrant Dink and their status lines to read “We are all Hrant Dink.”

Armenian journalist-blogger Mark Grigorian [RU] also remembers Hrant Dink.

Он был одним из тех, кто пытался найти пути и способы примирить армян и турок…”Армяне — врачи турок, — продолжал он, — а турки — врачи армян. Нет других докторов. Диалог — вот единственный рецепт”.

He tried to find ways of reconciling Armenians and Turks… “Armenians are Turks’ doctors,” he continued, “and Turks, Armenians’ doctors. There are no other doctors. Dialogue is the only recipe.”

With the historic first visit of the Turkish president to Armenia last year, and an online apology for what most historians consider to be the Armenian Genocide, Grigorian notes the unparalleled progress in Armenian-Turkish relations since Dink's death.

…проблема так велика, а пропасть между двумя народами так глубока, что сдвиги в сторону сближения вызывают у националистов негативную реакцию, а то и отторжение. Примером этого можно считать опубликованную в одной из турецких газет фотографию, на которой группа мужчин держит плакаты с надписями: “Собакам вход разрешен, евреям и армянам вход воспрещен “.

…the problem is so great, and the division between the two nations so deep, that steps toward coming closer [to each other] bring about negative reactions among nationalists. One example is a [recent] photo published in a Turkish newspaper showing a group of men holding signs reading, “Dogs are allowed; Jews and Armenians are not allowed.”

And while nationalism in Turkey remains a significant problem, one Turk made another unprecedented step toward reconciliation. His letter, posted on my Blogian, explains his actions.

When I found out that the properties that I and my brothers inherited from our father wasn’t our own, but properties taken from the murdered Assyrians in 1915 I felt an indescribable feeling of guilt and shame… I have personally apologized to every Assyrian and Armenian I’ve met. But this does not get rid of the crime our ancestors committed. Even if I am personally not responsible for what happened in 1915, I felt as I had to do more than just to apologize. Finally, I came to the decision to give back all properties that I inherited from my forefathers to [an Assyrian organization].

Dink's reputation for promoting human rights and fighting for minority rights has also opened Armenian eyes. Armenian-American blog This Side of Fifty, for example, ponders not only Dink and Armenian-Turkish relations, but also how his message was much wider.

…It strikes me very odd that many Armenians I knew growing up had a dislike for blacks. When I look back at both the Armenian Genocide and the life work of Martin Luther King, I am struck with one thing. Armenians for the most part focus on our own tragedy, almost exclusively. We can live in this great country and see little irony that we as disposed people live on the lands of disposed American Indians….

Incidentally, the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday in the United States in 2009, celebrated the second Monday of January, coincides with Dink’s second anniversary. Two years ago, immediately after Dink’s murder, Canada-based Armenian blog Hyelog compared the two.

On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King was shot… In 1986, Martin Luther King Day was established as a United States holiday.

Hrant Dink’s story still remains to be written in Turkey…his unwavering trust that we all would manage to live together in peace one day.

It is now Turkey’s turn to demonstrate its greatness by making Hrant Dink Turkey’s Martin Luther King.


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